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Throughout the play 'Antigone' there is a constant emphasis on the use and abuse of power.

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Introduction

In 'Antigone', what views does Sophocles present of: * The use of power * The conflict between the state's law and divine law * The position of women in society? The Use and Abuse of Power Throughout the play 'Antigone' there is a constant emphasis on the use and abuse of power. When the play begins Creon has just taken over as King of Thebes; it is literally his first day in power. At first he appears willing to listen to people as he summons his council. He says, "I have called you out of all my people...". He tells them, "For my part, I have always held the view that a King whose lips are sealed by fear, unwilling to seek advice is damned.". This sentiment is more than ironic in the light of his behaviour in the rest of the play. Later in the play, like Oedipus in the first of the Theban Plays, Oedipus Rex, Creon becomes very defensive when people try to give him advice. He accuses them of conspiring against him. When he first hears about Polynices being buried he thinks that there are "rebels, a band of men against his word and law." Creon prides himself in being a good man and a responsible king. He rules his city with the contention that his law is the only law. Antigone may be stubborn, but Creon's motivation seems rooted in a lack of reason and desire to dominate. Indeed, Sophocles demonstrates the "sin of refusing to listen, and about a man who has never been told" (The True Tragedy - William Davies) supremely through Creon's character. On many occasions Creon speaks of honour and the ideal of goodness overruling evil, "I am determined that never, if I can help it, shall evil triumph over good.". Yet he fails to identify the completely hypocritical aspect of his decisions, to defy the laws of the god, in order to impose his laws, albeit in the cause of strengthening his city and protecting his subjects. ...read more.

Middle

Antigone believed that the actions she took were taken for the right reasons. Creon believes that the actions he had taken were in fact the right ones because he believed that Polynices was a traitor to his land and that anyone who should try to give him a decent burial, which he did not deserve in Creon's opinion, should be killed as Antigone states at the start of the play, "This is no idle threat, the punishment for disobedience is death by stoning". So, the actions that were taken by both of them individually were the right ones, in their own minds at least. Antigone, in her plan to give her brother Polynices a proper burial, kept in mind the consequences that she would suffer for having followed her heart rather than the laws of the states. Antigone quite clearly admits that she knows that she should die, that she has bluntly gone against the king, "I admit it, I do not deny it.". This does not mean however that Antigone would not obey the human laws that Creon proclaims, it is just that this particular law conflicts with the laws of the gods, Antigone's true calling. Antigone commits the crime because it is morally and ethically correct to do so and this is why she stakes her life based upon her strong beliefs. "She chooses the divine command over the human compulsion and rejects life with its compromises for the absolutes of death. Indeed, in her terms these absolutes are, paradoxically, just the things that live always" (Segal). To Antigone, divine law is of more importance than human law. She bases her conduct on following the law set out by tradition, by the immortals. To Antigone there is nothing more important than what she claims to be morally clean and just. Antigone meant well when she buried her brother, however when reviewing the consequences of her actions one must think that perhaps she should have let the gods vindicate their own laws. ...read more.

Conclusion

This shows how truly confused and hypocritical his arguments are. This leads the audience to question whether or not he would betray it then for a man, if so, why when he claims to be such a strict and dedicated ruler? Ismene shows how women were "put in their proper place" when she tells Antigone, "We are women, it is not for us to fight against men." Ismene, though acting as a Greek woman should and motivated by realism, does not have the inner strength shown through the character of Antigone. Antigone shows masculine strength and confidence in her will to carry out her task. She has a strong attitude that shows how desperate she is to complete her ambition, the peace and burial of her brother's body. I feel that she defies all of Creon's definitions of what a woman is, where they should be, what they should do or how they should act and be treated. Antigone's argument finally works and Creon decides to free her and bury the body of her brother, It is only because Creon arrives at her cave too late that her will has not been entirely carried out. So, in fact, Creon takes his orders from a woman and tries his hardest to carry them out, his tragedy is that he waits too long to heed the woman's advice. Creon is the character that cannot later remedy his fatal and tragic mistakes. If he had listened to either his son or Antigone the dead would have been properly tended to, neither Haemon nor Eurydice would have died and Creon would not be left as "nothing", as he calls himself, at the end of the play. This play, through Antigone's martyrdom and Creon's weakness and ultimate demise, clearly displays the strength of the female character and represents a brave stand by Sophocles against the status quo of fifth century Athenian society and its rules and standards. Alexandra Spencer-Jones U6 - Classical Civilisation 1 1 ...read more.

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